Director Kevin Derek’s melancholy documentary More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story (B-) traces the titular Japanese-American actor’s journey from origins as a sick child witnessing internment camps to a man who masked his troubled soul with comedy, alcohol and of course an iconic role as cinema’s iconic sensei. Through home movies and sentimental stories told by actor and crew colleagues plus the love of his life and his third wife Evelyn Guerrero-Morita, viewers get a glimpse into a singular and trailblazing pop cultural personality known for his (Garry) Marshall comedies as well as his martial arts. Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Henry Winkler and Marion Ross are among those celebrating their friend, even as the film plumbs the depths of the late Oscar nominee’s addictions which weren’t necessarily known by his fans. The film hovers around a variety of themes ranging from overcoming racial stereotypes to finding one’s voice, even if Derek doesn’t always land a clear thesis or consistently effective style. But when waxing (on) poetic about this icon, the filmmakers find greatness in a flawed but formidable man.
Note: Available Feb. 5, 2021 on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, DVD and Blu-ray.